A gorilla surrogate mother has come forward to raise an abandoned baby. Zoologists at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announced on Tuesday that Gladys, the 5-month-old Western lowland gorilla who was rejected by her mom, now has a new caretaker.
Zookeepers began introducing Gladys to new mom, M’Linzi, on Monday June 17. The pair began to bond, and, after a week of spending time together, M’Linzi took in Gladys as her very own. M’Linzi, after a short period of time, began carrying Gladys gently from one area to the next. M’Linzi ultimately allowed Gladys to begin picking at her food and eventual the pair began napping together and then sleeping together overnight. As the pair grew a new bond, the gorilla surrogate mother began comforting Gladys during moments of distress.
Zookeepers spent months raising Gladys, and eventually her surrogate human caretakers began to realize that she was reaching significant gorilla milestones. Surrogate human caretakers needed to stay with Gladys 24/7 while teaching her to think and ultimately act like a gorilla. Caretakers held Gladys to their chest, fed her, and even carrier her on their backs. Caretakers then helped Gladys explore every area of the zoo’s exhibit area.
Workers, before the gorilla’s surrogate mother came into the picture, were required to work in 8-hour shifts while wearing all black scrubs and black faux fur vests to imitate a real gorilla mother. Workers also attempted to teach Gladys about what different gorilla sounds mean.
Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo says of the gorilla surrogate mother:
“The Cincinnati Zoo has a “first” for almost everything. However, using human surrogates as gorilla moms has been a first even for us. The Cincinnati Zoo gorillas have been some of the most prolific gorillas in captivity, making the Zoo one of the top breeders of this endangered species in the world and I am proud to say that our staff has continued this tradition of excellence and service with baby Gladys. I, for one, could not be more proud of them (and her).”
The next slow step will be introducing Gladys to the rest of the zoo’s exhibit areas and also to the rest of Gladys’ gorilla family.
If you want to follow the story of little Gladys and her gorilla surrogate mother, you can follow updates through Cincinnatizoo.org. You can also search for the zoo on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
[Image via Cincinnati Zoo Facebook Page]